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Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery - Know Everything About It!!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, MS - General Surgery, MCh - Neurosurgery
Neurosurgeon, Guwahati  •  20 years experience
Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery - Know Everything About It!!

The cervical discs are protective cushions that allow the free movement of the neck. The intervertebral disks located between the cervical vertebrae (7 bones, C1-C7, that constitute the cervical spine) function as shock absorbers.

However, any damage and injury to the cervical disc, or an ailment can narrow the spinal canal. As a result, the intervertebral cervical discs exert pressure on the spinal nerves (responsible for movement and sensation in the upper body). There may be weakness and loss of sensation, causing pain (moderate to chronic) and discomfort in the neck. The free movement of the neck also gets affected (restricted).

In many cases, physiotherapy and other nonsurgical medications can help improve the condition. Cervical Disc Surgery comes as a blessing in extreme cases, where the non-surgical medications fail to provide any relief.

For long, the cervical disc surgery involved the surgical removal of the affected disc, followed by the fusion of the vertebrae located above and below the affected cervical disc (Traditional Fusion Surgery).

The advancement of technology has increased the effectiveness (higher success rate) of the cervical disc surgery. These days, the surgery is simple and involves replacing the affected cervical disk with an artificial one (Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement).

Triggers for a cervical disc replacement surgery:
Any damage to the cervical disc can affect the spinal cord and the neck adversely. A person may need to undergo a disc replacement surgery in case;

  1. There are pain and stiffness in the neck.
  2. Pain that gradually spreads into the arms and shoulder.
  3. One experiences extreme weakness in the arms, legs, hands or shoulders.
  4. There is a loss of sensation (numbness) or "needle prick" like sensations in the arms.
  5. There is a headache (moderate to severe).

Advantages of cervical disc replacement:

People have benefitted immensely from cervical disc replacement.

  1. In comparison to the fusion surgery, disc replacement has a faster recovery time.
  2. Disc replacement has a higher success rate (remarkable improvement in the shoulder and neck movement).
  3. It retains the cervical motion.
  4. It reduces the stress on the spinal cord and spine nerves greatly.

Risks involved in the cervical disc replacement:
With merits come the demerits. Though effective, there are some risks involved in the surgery.

  1. A person may experience some difficulty in breathing and swallowing of food.
  2. There may be some reactions to the anesthesia.
  3. The disc replacement may result in an infection, nerve injury, bleeding or leakage of the spinal fluid.
  4. Post replacement, there may be a stroke, voice modulation.
  5. In some unfortunate cases, there may be no improvement in the condition.
  6. The artificial disc may be affected (fractured or broken).

Recovery and Precaution:
A little alertness and precaution can speed up the recovery process.

  1. The first three weeks post-surgery, avoid strenuous work.
  2. For a better recovery, start walking after the surgery. However, do not overdo yourself.
  3. It is not advisable to start driving immediately after the surgery.
  4. Avoid rigorous exercise for as long as recommended by the doctor.
  5. Rest as much as possible.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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